Multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire and fan favorite Mind Your Biscuits likely isn’t just the featured player in Saturday’s Belmont Sprint Championship (GII) on the Stars and Stripes Festival cared, he might actually be the marquee name on the entire day as he makes his first start since his dominating three-length romp in the March 25 Dubai Golden Shahen Stakes (GI) at Meydan.
The The 4-year-old New York-bred son Posse, who is owned by J Stable, Head of Plains Partners, Summers, Summers and Kisber et al, is not only running for a win in the $350,000 sprint, he’s also aiming for an all-expenses-paid spot in the November 4 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI) at Del Mar since the event is a “Win and You’re In” event for Racing’s Championship Day. The Chad Summers trainee won’t have a walk in the park, though, in his return from a three-month break as he’ll face six other talented speedsters, including stakes winners Green Gratto, Stallwalkin’ Dude, Tommy Macho and the Jimmy Jerkens-trained Unified, who defeated Mind Your Biscuits by a neck in the Gulfstream Park Sprint Stakes (GII) in February.
Overall it’s easy to see why Mind Your Biscuits is the heavy favorite, especially off his last four where he earned triple-digit speed figures and high class and pace figures to go with, and he’s nothing if not predictable, having only finished worse than third two times in 15 career starts. While he may prefer a shorter sprint distance, he did win the Malibu Stakes (GI) at Santa Anita at seven furlongs and he’s a closer who will get a decent pace to run at. Regular jockey Joel Rosario is back aboard and the pair will break from post position two.
With one exception, Centennial Farms’ Unified is as consistent as a sprinter can be. The lightly raced son of Candy Ride, who started his career last year with three wins, two of which were in graded company and after an uncharacteristic fifth-place finish last year in the two-turn Pegasus Handicap (GIII) the colt got a lengthy break before coming back as a bona fide sprinter to win the Gulfstream Park Sprint. He was second last out in the April 8 Carter Handicap (GI) in a narrow defeat as a heavy favorite behind upset winner Green Gatto but he didn’t get his preferred trip and it seems most likely he’ll find himself back setting all the pace in here. Triple digit speed figures for this Jimmy Jerkens trainee are no big deal and while it’s hard to improve off Javier Castellano, having regular rider Jose Ortiz back aboard will more than likely help.
Live Oak Plantation’s Awesome Slew is as unpredictable as his chief rivals are predictable, going from winning a grade 1 at Keeneland to being soundly beaten in the Met Mile (GI) a month ago. While it may not have been his best distance, he never really ran and finished a poor fourth, beaten 10 lengths. Back sprinting and likely getting the early pace he loves to run at, Awesome Slew figures to put up a better finish here and potentially upset. He has regular triple-digit speed figures and is loaded with late pace, so all he may need is clear running room and dead aim at the wire. Hall of Famer John Velazquez picks up the mount for trainer Mark Casse.
New Jersey-bred Green Gatto, who is known almost as well for his humble connections as his racing record, ran the race of his career to win the Carter Handicap (GI) three back, where he led at every step through quick splits to win by a neck at odds of 54-1. He hasn’t hit the board in two starts since, but he also didn’t make his favorite spot on the front end from the gate, which is a game changer for this 7-year-old son of Here’s Zealous. He’s been on the board in four of 10 starts at the distance, but has only won one start from 15 at Belmont and while it’s fun to root for him, he’s probably in a bit deep here to expect a win.
Stallwalkin Dude, who was sixth behind Mind Your Biscuits in Dubai, enters this event off a second in the True North Handicap (GII) her last month. This David Jacobson-trained son of City Place hasn’t earned less than a triple-digit speed figure in any of his last 10 starts and aside from his Dubai performance hasn’t finished worse than third in more than a year. He likes seven furlongs (12-4-2-2) maybe more than any of his rivals here and he’s very accomplished here at Belmont (11-4-3-2). He probably poses the most serious threat for the upset from off the pace under new jockey Flavien Prat.
Tommy Macho carries three third-place finishes in graded company into this race, all of which came against several runners here. He’s loaded with ability, but he doesn’t win often and is probably a best bet on the exotics tickets here.
Fellowship was briefly on the Triple Crown trail in 2016 after earning three thirds in the Florida preps, but when a Preakness start produced a dismal eighth-place finish, the son of Awesome of Course was sent to the sidelines before emerging this year with his third trainer, having previously had Stanley Gold and Mark Casse in charge of his conditioning. His best effort this year was a win in an allowance race, and then two dismal showings in graded stakes. He may just be a touch below the best here.